This week, I’m taking a quick break from Hyperlocal Introductions—my series of columns in which I interview people around town who’ve made me wonder, "Now, who is that and what is his/her story?" I’ll pick it back up in two weeks, in my next column. For now, it is pretty well midsummer. How is your summer going?
Even though a considerable amount of time has passed since my life was based on the rhythms of the academic calendar, even now, I still can’t help but think of summer in terms of "summer break." My lifestyle doesn’t change very much anymore when summer comes around, not like it did when I was in kindergarten. Or all the way up through when I was a senior in college, at that. Which is all OK. Normal, even. It’s an inevitable part of adulting one’s way through life. Still. I miss that summer break mentality.
Maybe summer feels more break-y this year as opposed to other recent summers because it’s the first time one of my children is experiencing an academic summer break. School, school, school and then, one day, just like that, all done. I may be experiencing a kind of vicarious living through her. At least experiencing a bit of the nebulous excitement that flows from the principal’s utterance, "See you all in the fall!"
I remember that release. Not just intellectually, as in a typical memory, as in, "Oh, hey, remember that one time ...?" But corporally. It’s an anxious, tingling kind of feeling that starts in my guts and radiates out to the tips of my fingers and toes, the promise of adventure and destiny waiting to be filled. Bye-bye, school. Hello, camps and girls and friends and countless surprise quests and mini-quests that can only be undertaken between early June and late August.
I posit that one of summer’s inevitable, inherent qualities—something that makes summer summer, without which summer could not exist—is its fleeting nature. Of all the seasons, none are as ethereal as summer, none as transient. Fall drags on; winter sticks; spring, as lovely as it can be, just won’t go away soon enough. Summer is what we’re really waiting for. That’s the season that comes too late and leaves too early. It’s somehow been more than a month now that I said to my daughter, "Well, kiddo, school is out. We’ve got a whole summer of adventures ahead of us." Could it be that half our adventures are done? Already?
If summer and all its kinetic emotional energy were not fleeting, summer sure would be miserable. All we’d have is heat and humidity, mosquitos slurping up our blood, and watered-down tea—watered-down because, in 100-plus degree heat, you can pretty well watch the ice cubes shrink. If there weren’t summer’s healthy urgency to do new things and explore new places, nothing that has happened during summer would have happened and nothing new would have ever been discovered.
During the summer between my second and third years of undergrad, I stumbled upon abstract expressionism, that movement in 20th-century American art stereotyped by notions of black-clad artists hurling loaded paintbrushes at blank canvases from distances in excess of 50 feet. For whatever reason, I thought abstract expressionism was the most brilliant thing going. And when I really get into something that I’ve never been into before, it’s not enough to observe and study whatever the something happens to be. I have to bathe in it, inhabit it, become it.
So my parents let me turn a room in the basement into a "studio." Quotes around studio because, whether or not I knew it at the time, I wasn’t an actual artist, as in a person who’d legitimately require a studio in which to work. I was more like a guy trying on a shirt to see if it would fit. Nonetheless, I stretched canvases out on the floor and swirled and slung paint onto them from crusty brushes, just like Jackson Pollock. Those pieces of "art" have long been dismantled and tossed out with the garbage. The splotches of paint on the floor of that room have long been subsumed by the accouterments of a typical basement.
Thankfully, the point wasn’t that I might accidentally produce a masterpiece. The point was to be somebody new, to view the world through completely different lenses, and were it not for summer’s urge to experience before it—both summer and that opportunity to experience—vaporized, I’d at least be a much more boring person now. Anyway, all that is to say: Summer’s half-gone. What’s calling you in the next month and a half? Be careful that it is not already waving goodbye.
Paul Luikart is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of places over the years. His most recent book, "Animal Heart," is available now from Hyperborea Publishing. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.